Malaysia Cup | Selayang Stadium | Wed 4 Nov | 8.45pm
Irfan Bakti Abu Salim meets his former team again
Three points and Felda United can be virtually certain of making the last eight, unless T-Team better a four-goal deficit against a desperate Kelantan in Kota Bahru.
Group C was expected to be the toughest group with Selangor, Kelantan and Felda scrambling to progress. The Red Giants have qualified and even secured top spot despite suffering an embarrassing 3-0 reverse by Kelantan at the Shah Alam Stadium during the opening match.
Felda’s surprise 2-1 loss to T-Team on the road on match day four and failure to convert a host of chances in the penultimate round blew the group wide open.
The Fighters are in second place with six points, level with T-Team but ahead on goal difference. Kelantan have five points and still stand a chance.
Felda may find it difficult to break down Mehmet Durakovic’s Selangor, who have built a reputation for being tough to crack. The Red Giants have only lost once in their last 12 outings, four of which ended up in draws.
But Felda have stunned Selangor in the Malaysia Cup before. Selangor entered the Malaysia Cup with the league's best defence, conceding only 19 times, but Felda scored seven past the 32-time Malaysia Cup champions over two legs in the quarter-final last year.
This year, Selangor played Felda twice in four days in the Malaysia Super League (MSL) – a 4-4 draw was followed by a win for Selangor. Wednesday's match will be the fourth time the teams meet this year, following a goalless draw in their earlier Malaysia Cup group fixture.
Felda no longer have the services of Ndumba Makeche after the Australian refused to extend his contract beyond October 31. Felda’s contract all end on that day, one month before most other club contracts end. The delay in this edition of the Malaysia Cup – due to poor scheduling, weather conditions and Johor’ Darul Ta’zim AFC Cup progress – meant some contracts would end before the tournament’s final on December 12.
In an interview with Professional Footballers Association, its chief executive officer Izham Ismail said that it was an issue that must be addressed immediately. It likely won't do Makeche or his former teammates any good, but it is something to ponder ahead of next season.
Left-back Aizulridwan Razali is out injured, meaning Adib Aizuddin Abdul Latif will step in for Felda. Fortunately, Adib is no stranger to first team action and could give Andik Vermansyah problems if he is tasked with marking him.
Player to watch: Zah Rahan Krangar
The 31-year-old needs to pull a rabbit out of the hat if his team are to make it to the knockout stages. He was vital in Felda’s promotion bid to the MSL last year, pulling the strings in midfield. While he still commands a starting place in Felda’s midfield, he needs to start showing what he is capable of.
“I spoke to him last week. Told him he raise his game if he wants to remain here next season,” Irfan said of his charge.
He has the ability to make defence splitting passes and the pace of Thiago Fernandes and ever-green Indra Putra Mahayuddin could open up Selangor’s resolute defence. If there is one thing the Selangor defence cannot handle, it is being put under constant pressure.
Though normally tough at the back, Durakovic has lamented their lack of concentration in big matches several times this season.
Facts and figures
- Both teams have met seven times since Irfan joined Felda after his Selangor stint. Each have won once while the other games have ended in draws.
- Under Irfan, Felda have scored 13 goals against the Red Giants.
- In contract, Selangor breached Felda’s defense 10 times during that time.
- Felda have not won a match since their opening day win against T-Team in September.
Felda 2 Selangor 1: The hosts have the experience, talent and youth in their ranks. Selangor are not the most creative team around and if Shahrul Saad can win the midfield battle, Felda could snatch this.
Photo: Felda United Media